Calif. Senate Bans Employers Demanding Social Media Passwords
The upper house of the state’s legislature bans controversial act by employers.
As we’ve written about previously, it’s become commonplace of late for employers to request (and in some cases demand) access to a staffer’s social media accounts. Reaction against this practice has been strong and vociferous, and legislators have heard these complaints and are doing something about them. The most populous and economically powerful state in the union has now stepped into the fray — the California Senate late last week passed a bill banning employers and university officials from requesting such access from employees and students.
The Senate’s passing of the bill comes on the heels of a similar piece of legislation passed several weeks ago by the Assembly, the second of the two houses of California’s legislature. The Assembly’s bill would prohibit any element flagged as “private” in a social media account from being viewed by an employer. Unlike the Senate’s bill, the Assembly’s version does not extend its ban to university officials.
Reflecting the general feelings of outrage expressed by many Americans, both bills passed with strong support in their respective legislatures. As per procedure, each bill must now be passed in the other chamber and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in order to become law.
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Comparable efforts are underway at the state level in at least three locales (New Jersey, Delaware and Washington), while an anti-snooping law is already on the books in Maryland. Similar legislation might even be enacted at the federal level, as a pair of representatives – Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) – introduced a bill late last month similar to that of the California Senate’s. And like the California Assembly’s statute, the access ban would apply to colleges and other schools. In the House bill’s current draft, anyone who runs afoul of the law would be subject to a $10,000 fine.
The Social Networking Online Protection Act, as it’s called, has yet to be fully reviewed or voted on. It should, however, enjoy widespread support and be passed into law relatively quickly.
It’s not only citizens and their representatives that have decried the current practice of employer/school snooping. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken strong issue with such habits. In a statement, the ACLU did not mince words, saying that “it’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process.”
This is not the first time the controversy over employer access to social media has reared its head, nor will it be the last. Look for it to be the subject of legislative moves at both the federal and local level for many months to come.